One of the things I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it is rich in practical self help practices that have been handed down for centuries because they are grounded in common sense. One of my favourite of these is the practice of prescribing Chicken Broth to women in the post partum period, which is what I want to share with you here.
According to TCM, the process of labor and birth strongly depletes a woman’s Qi (energy) and Blood; birth involves tremendous physical, mental and emotional effort and after birth women are considered to be relatively ’empty’. This is even more so for women who have had caesarean section or post partum haemorrhage.
It is this Qi and Blood emptiness that leaves women vulnerable to post partum disorders such as low milk supply, post natal depression, insomnia, exhaustion and mastitis. According to TCM, the key focus for women in the post partum should be to replenish what is lost. Aside from emphasising the importance of plentiful bed rest for at least one month after birth, TCM Diet Therapy recommends Chicken Broth as a powerful way to nourish Qi and Blood reserves.
I’ve been making Chicken Broth according to the following recipe for well over a decade and it is one of the most nurturing and nourishing health practices I know. There is a nutritive quality to the broth that feels so restorative and life enhancing. It is good medicine and your body will thank you for the foresight of freezing a few batches in the later stages of pregnancy.
Delivering a new mama with a big pot of Chicken Soup made from the following broth is one of the most thoughtful post natal gestures I know (right up there with with Post Natal Sitz Bath herbs).
Post Partum Restorative Chicken Broth
The first 3 ingredients are key but the rest of the recipe can be modified according to your own tastes and preferences and what you have available in the fridge or garden.
Organic Free-Range Chicken*
3-4 slices fresh ginger*
splash of Apple Cider Vinegar*
6 spring onions, green tips included
2 stalks celery
3 bay leaves
1tblspn black peppercorns
Fresh herbs: choose from any or all of the following
1 large sprig rosemary
Half a bunch of parsley
1 large sprig sage
2 large sprigs of thyme
½ tspn sea salt
Rinse chicken and place in a large stock pot and add enough water to cover (about 3-4 litres). Add fresh ginger and a splash of vinegar. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer. Roughly chop vegetables and add to the pot with bay leaf and peppercorn. You can also add a whole onion, unpeeled (but some find onion disagrees with baby’s digestion). Simmer for a minimum of 3 hours, at least 6 hours is best. Add fresh herbs in the final 30 minutes of cooking time.
Finally, add salt. Do not add salt earlier as it will prevent proper extraction of nutrients.
Allow stock to cool and then strain through a sieve. The broth can be drunk as is as a daily bowl of goodness, or can be used as the stock to make Chicken Soup. It is not necessary to skim the fat and this adds to flavour. You can pick the flesh off the chicken and use for soup, or for sandwiches, or add to pies or risotto. The broth can be added to stews, risottos and congee etc, and can be frozen for convenience.
The vinegar helps pull minerals from the bones. Much of the benefits of the broth are to be gained by slow cooking the chicken for at least 6 hours so that the minerals and nutrients are extracted from the bone level. In TCM this is considered the level of the Essence, or Jing, which corresponds to the deepest levels of our life force. Because of this it is important to choose an organic chicken.
Chicken Broth is powerful medicine and a wonderful source of nutrition when the body is run down or recovering from illness. I’ve found it can be a blessing for women suffering from severe morning sickness who are unable to tolerate most food but are able to drink the nutritive broth. It is also an excellent food choice for digestive weakness and auto immune disorders. Severely Blood deficient vegetarians will benefit from the occasional Chicken Broth with the understanding that food is medicine. For all women, the Blood nourishing properties of Chicken Broth are beneficial not just post partum but as a regular tonic at the end of menstruation.
For post partum medicine, traditionally Chinese herbs that nourish Qi and Blood are added to the cooking process, in particular the herb Dang Gui Angelica sinensis which has a well deserved reputation as a herb for women’s health. Most Asian supermarkets will have these kind of soup stock herbs, or you can contact a Chinese Herbalist for better quality herbs.
If you would like to add extra potency to your broth, I have available for purchase (complete with recipes) the Post Partum Restorative Blend to nourish Yin and Blood. Contact me for more information.